Twelve people joined me for this walk, at Amwell Nature Reserve at the north end of the Lee Valley Regional Park. Most of the participants met me at Stanstead Abbots railway station, a short walk from the reserve, and we started to see interesting wildlife on our way to the reserve, including Blackcaps and Sedge Warblers as we walked along by the New River (not particularly 'new' now, the waterway was opened in 1613 after being constructed to supply drinking water to the people of London).
We met a few more people nearer to the main viewpoint over the reserve, and then quickly made a start on finding out what the reserve had to offer.
Late summer can be one of the quietest times of year for birdwatching because for many species the breeding season is starting to come to an end, and they are often moulting worn feathers in preparation for migration or the forthcoming winter. This means that there is little bird song to be heard, and the birds are often secretive. Autumn migration has already commenced by the end of July though, and the Common Sandpipers that were feeding on the muddy edges of islands in the gravel pit that the reserve encompasses were a sign of this. Common Sandpipers don't breed locally so these were among the first migrants on their way back south.
Other birds were still busy trying to raise broods of young, including Reed Warblers and Reed Buntings seen carrying food, and Great Crested Grebes with their stripy 'humbug' youngsters. Others had clearly already fledged their young, and we saw quite a quite a few fully fledged, and independent, juveniles, including Grey Herons and Green Woodpeckers. We were lucky with the weather, considering how the British summer can be, and the frequent sunny spells suited the resident Common Buzzards well - we had superb views of them overhead. A Hobby also showed very well above us, as it hunted flying insects.
A 'phone-scoped' Green Woodpecker - this one an adult male.
Warm, sunny weather meant that insects were active, so we found far more than we would have otherwise managed. Dragonflies and butterflies tend to be the insects that attract most attention and we found a good variety of both, including Emperors, Brown Hawkers, Common & Ruddy Darters (dragonflies), Red Admirals, Gatekeepers, Peacocks, and Large and Green-veined Whites (butterflies). Other interesting invertebrate finds were Dingy Footman moths, Cinnabar Moth caterpillars, and a variety of hoverflies.
Cinnabar Moth caterpillars on Ragwort.
We found plenty of other interesting birds as well, in addition to those already mentioned, with Kingfishers, a less than cooperative Marsh Tit (perhaps more than one?) which was calling frequently but gave only glimpses, and Little Egrets, among the highlights. More commonly seen species weren't ignored though, with Lesser Black-backed Gulls and Cormorants among the species that showed well from the main viewpoint.
All together, a very enjoyable day.
Cormorant in a well known pose!